There's no doubting that Steven Jackson's gutsy and inspired performance on Sunday was one for the ages.
Hobbled by a groin strain, Steven could have been excused for sitting out a game to recoup for the rest of the season. But S-Jax was fueled by a desire to win. Even if it was just as a decoy, he had to play.
But he wasn’t a decoy. Instead Steven racked up 124 yards and in the process passed Marshall Faulk for No. 2 on the list of leading rushers in Rams history.
His heart, dedication and accomplishments led to an outpouring of support this week for No. 39 and what he has done in St. Louis not just this season, but throughout his seven-year career to date.
ONE FAN'S THOUGHTS
It came from the fans, like bomebadeeda who wrote this open letter to S-Jax on the RealRamsFans.com forum:
What you accomplished today is a testament of who you are. Yes we the fans had a tendency to compare you with the man you replaced and at times slighted you with the comparisons. But where Marshall had some years to learn w/ the Colts and came here w/ a new attitude. You have simply placed the franchise on your broad shoulders and toiled w/ it's limited success. It wasn't your fault you were the next in line. But it was our fault we thought you just weren't up to the level Marshall played at.
The truth is. Marshall had a much better supporting cast and when given the chance to lead this team, he ran with it. Today you showed come hell or high water, you want to contribute to what this team is about. We might not get to the lofty plateaus the ‘99 team did. But you are certainly going to leave your mark upon this team….
Thank you for understanding how myopic we fans are. We don't see the big picture. Today you risk your health just to be on the field for the biggest game in some time around these parts. Why? Because you knew we needed it. And while we are experiencing some success, you understand it will take everyone on the team doing his part. You sir, are a great reason to be proud to be a Rams fan today. Not because you did well today. Because you've done well for quite some time, we just weren't enough of a team to see it. Thanks Steve for being a Ram.
BLOGGERS PAY TRIBUTE
Praise also came from the bloggers, like Will of Rams Herd and Jeff and Mike of Rams Gab:
From Will’s Monday hangover column on Rams Herd:
"He didn’t practice. That was no surprise. He didn’t even participate in warm-ups. No surprise there, either, considering I fully expected the big guy to ride this one out on the bench, recovering while the Rams did their best without him. But on the game’s first play, there was this dreadlocked monster wearing #39 crashing into the line of scrimmage? Can that be right? He played the whole game, and racked up 124 yards from scrimmage? Unbelievable."
From Jeff’s column, "Steven Jackson: Ultimate Warrior" on Rams Gab:
"We said it last season in the Rams only victory of the season, but it bares repeating, we are lucky to watch Steven Jackson every week. He’s a leader for the Rams and on Sunday, he lead by example as he did not practice all week, barely was able to warm up and lead the Rams offense to a huge victory over the Seattle Seahawks. This game meant a lot to Steven Jackson and it showed. Jackson has played in a lot of losses against the Seahawks, as he has not beat them in the last 10 tries and he was not going to let the Rams lose in the 11th game. Steven Jackson is the Rams Ultimate Warrior and he cannot receive as much praise as he should for his effort this week."
From Mike’s RamView Week 4: Running Backs column on Rams Gab:
"He made a real statement of leadership to this young team by taking the field for this big game despite not being close to 100% healthy, and reinforced it over and over with repeated slams into a Seahawk d-line he wore thin, and occasionally gave piggyback rides to. Jackson’s best play of the game didn’t even count. On a 4th-and-2 wiped out by a penalty, he was stopped in the backfield, but when his wheels spun, like a good 4WD crossing a muddy road, he dropped a gear and plowed through anyway, for a 5-yard gain. You didn’t need to take anatomy class to see today that an injured groin has nothing to do with an athlete’s heart. The stadium scoreboard played a tribute to Jack Youngblood at one point, and though Jackson’s performance today wasn’t as courageous/crazy as Jack playing with a broken leg 30 years ago, it’s still apropos to invoke. Like Jack, Steven Jackson made a statement today, and made team history."
And the applause also came from the St. Louis media, those who have watched No. 39 from the beginning and seen him mature into a strong leader while being one of the NFL’s best backs.
Like Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in a column entitled "Appreciating Steven Jackson":
Blaming Jackson for the team's failure to win was silly. It's the equivalent of blaming him for all of the horrible draft picks and personnel decisions, or holding him responsible for Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace getting old. Because that's why the Rams turned into a bad team; star players left or slowed down or were physically damaged and the front office did a terrible job in replacing them. That wasn't Jackson's fault. If anything it made his performance even more remarkable. Because over the last few seasons, every coach, every coordinator went into a game against the Rams with only one thing to worry about: stack enough players in the box, and smother Steven Jackson. And he powered his way to extra yards, fighting to do what he could to help the team. Between 2005 and 2009, five seasons, Jackson averaged more yards from scrimmage per game (116.2) than any NFL player, even with the defense aligned with the solitary goal of stopping him. And yet we heard constant criticism of Jax in this town. It was strange.
Sunday, Jackson gave the Rams 70 yards rushing and 54 receiving while playing on one good leg. A groin injury took away his acceleration and ability to motor in a lateral direction, but it didn't matter. Jackson gutted it out. This was a huge game for the Rams, and Jackson gave them one from the heart. Inspirational. Yes.
Who knows? The Rams, with quarterback Sam Bradford and a better offensive line, are more capable of doing damage through the air. The offense will lean heavily on Jackson, but it's more diversified. So it's a little ironic: at a time when Jackson's production has dropped a bit, relative to other NFL backs, you can make the case that the respect for him has never been higher. It's because of the quality of leadership SJ39 is providing for an emerging team. It's because the Rams have found a QB, some receivers, a defense and better players to go 2-2. It wasn't Jackson's fault that the Rams were losing before, but it's just as well that he receives credit now.
I think it's overdue. For the longest time, Jackson took a beating for an awful football team. Now that the team is improving, he's more appreciated for what he represents. He's a football survivor. SJ39 deserves every accolade that comes his way…
Miklasz’s colleague at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bryan Burwell, also had plenty of praise to offer in his Monday morning column: "Jackson a warrior in Rams’ win":
"Jackson was not even remotely close to 100 percent Sunday, but nursing a badly strained groin muscle, and swaddled in more protective layers than King Tut's corpse, this was perhaps one of the most impressive games of his seven-year NFL career.
For the record, this was the day that Jackson (6,991 yards) moved into second place on the Rams' all-time career rushing list. He passed the legendary Marshall Faulk (6,959 yards) early in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard run that allowed him to close within 354 yards of Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson's club record 7,245 yards. But that wasn't how Jackson made his biggest impression.
This wasn't about records. This was about all those things that lead to records. Heart and soul and effort and will to win. This was about all those things that lead to professional respect like hard-nosed, warrior-like running in a game no one outside the Rams locker room thought was possible after watching him get his groin pulled apart like taffy a week ago against the Washington defense.
The stat line will say he gained only 70 yards on 22 carries, for a 3.2-yard average, plus 54 yards receiving. But the stat sheet doesn't begin to tell the full story of what Jackson accomplished.
Though he lacked the ability to open it up and truly run at full speed, and all the protection wrapped him up so tight he couldn't make any abrupt change of direction, Jackson put on a gutsy show that was a highlight of competitive toughness."
To all the praise, Steven gave his response in his blog, yesterday, thanking everyone for their support:
I have to start this out with a shoutout to all of my fans. The encouragement I've been receiving from you all has been very humbling. You have been there since day one, supporting me through the thick and thin, and acknowledging my efforts and my competitive spirit. It's something that I will always have and the support is something I'll never overlook. I'm greatly thankful for my fans and their kind words.
The Rams fan base as a whole has been amazing. To give them something to cheer about has been special. The Dome is starting to get loud again. With the noise they're creating, offenses are picking up penalties, which are helping us. To be able to have them behind us, to support us and give us energy, it's been a blessing.
If you haven’t yet, you can read Steven’s blog here.
A Week to Remember (SJ39.com, October 6, 2010)
An Open Letter to Steven Jackson (RealRamsFans.com, October 3, 2010)
The Hangover: First Place Rams (Rams Herd, October 4, 2010)
Steven Jackson: Ultimate Warrior (Rams Gab, October 4, 2010)
RamView Week 4: Running Backs (Rams Gab, October 5, 2010)
Burwell: Jackson a Warrior in Rams’ win (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 2010)
Bernie Bytes: Appreciating Steven Jackson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 5, 2010)